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Groups Petition for Endangerment Finding Review

April 21, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #246

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said at his Senate confirmation hearing he recognizes the climate is changing but added the extent to which human activity contributes to it, and what should be done about it, are “subject to continuing debate and dialogue, as well it should be.”

On CNBC in early March, Pruitt also said carbon dioxide is not the “primary contributor,” to climate change. Still, Pruitt has balked at reviewing EPA’s endangerment finding – the agency’s determination carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and welfare – which underpins all the climate policies implemented by the Obama administration.

During his Senate confirmation hearing Pruitt testified, “It [the endangerment finding] is there, and it needs to be enforced and respected. There is nothing that I know that would cause it to be reviewed.”

Some observers may have thought Pruitt’s support for the endangerment finding was simply a political calculation on his part, made during the hearing process in order to spark less controversy during the debate over his nomination and gain quicker approval. However, after his appointment, Pruitt evidently requested Trump not include in his March executive order a directive to review and possibly replace the endangerment finding. That executive order withdraws the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon calculation from use by federal regulators and directs EPA to conduct an expedited review of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and, if appropriate, rescind it.

As a matter of law, unless Trump gets rid of the endangerment finding, his efforts to roll back Obama’s climate policies will likely fail. Trump can’t just cut the branches; he must rip the climate policies out by their roots, and the endangerment finding is the roots.

As Steven Milloy, founder of JunkScience.com, told The New York Times, “The endangerment finding must be redone, or all of this is for naught. If you get rid of the endangerment finding, the rest of the climate regulations just sweep themselves away. But if they don’t get rid of it, the environmentalists can sue, and then there’s going to have to be a Trump Clean Power Plan.”

Two groups, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC), filed petitions to force Pruitt’s hand, demanding EPA review and reverse the finding, arguing it is based on flawed science.

CHECC sent its petition to EPA on January 20, during Trump’s inauguration, while CEI filed its petition in late February. CHECC’s petition argues a 2016 study found “all three of the lines of evidence relied upon by EPA to attribute warming to human GHG emissions are invalid. The Endangerment Finding itself is therefore invalid and should be reconsidered.”

One line of evidence for the endangerment finding was the claim a tropical hotspot exists in the troposphere where global warming would be most prevalent. The 2016 study CHECC cites, by economist James Wallace, climatologist John Christy, and meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, found after accounting for natural factors such as tropical storms “there is no ‘record setting’ warming to be concerned about,” and the tropical hotspot “simply does not exist.”

CEI’s petition provides three reasons for EPA to withdraw its endangerment finding:

1. There has been no statistically significant atmospheric warming despite a continued increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels; 2. Contrary to the endangerment finding’s second line of evidence, changes in global temperatures in recent decades are far from unusual; and 3. The growing accumulation and refinement of balloon and satellite data demonstrates that the atmosphere is far less sensitive to carbon dioxide forcing than predicted by the climate models.

If Pruitt accepts that the science underpinning EPA’s endangerment finding is flawed and rescinds the finding, that move would open up EPA to almost endless, costly, litigation as biased environmental lobbying groups, and some states and industry groups who benefit from the endangerment finding, would fight keep it in place. In the end, only Congress can definitively halt the climate juggernaut by passing legislation banning the regulation and taxation of carbon dioxide as being against the public good.

– H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Daily Caller; Breitbart; and The New York Times


IN THIS ISSUE …

No money, no ParisTrump foils G-7 climate, energy statementChevron bucks oil majors’ climate buy-inContra NOAA, warming pause alive and well


NO MONEY, NO PARIS

Actual funding for the promised $100 billion annual Green Climate Fund (GCF) is falling behind, and without full funding, it is likely the entire Paris agreement will crumble since developing countries signed on contingent on the payoff promised in the GCF. At present GCF commitments total $60 billion for the first year – 2020 – and most of it is not new money. Rather, much of the funding, including the first $500 million given by the Obama administration, is money shifted from other accounts, primarily other anticipated foreign aid contributions.

“Developed countries have not met their commitments. In their reports a lot of their commitment is in the form of development aid. That doesn’t meet the commitment to contribute to new funds,” said China’s top climate change negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, as reported by The American Interest. “A lot of countries don’t want to chip in.”

Actions taken by the new Trump administration in mid-March threw GCF funding into even greater doubt. Trump’s budget director, “Mick Mulvaney told reporters the administration would not fund climate change programs as it considers them ‘a waste of your money.’” The United States had been expected to kick in the largest share of the GCF.

As the saying goes, “no money, no honey.” A shortfall in GCF funding provides developing countries like Brazil, China, India, and others all the cover they need to walk away from the already tepid emission goals to which they committed in the Paris agreement.

SOURCES: The American Interest and Business Insider


TRUMP FOILS G-7 CLIMATE, ENERGY STATEMENT

The Trump administration’s “America First” foreign policy stance has stymied efforts by G-7 energy ministers to develop a common policy statement on how to satisfy the world’s future energy needs and address climate change.

During a meeting with energy company lobbyists concerning the Paris climate agreement before the meeting of the G-7 energy ministers in Rome, Politico reports, “George David Banks, a top White House international energy adviser, pointed to a map of the United States in his office and said, ‘That’s the only thing that matters to me.”“

Before the G-7 meeting, Trump administration officials had asked other G-7 members not to include discussions of renewable energy and climate change in their draft statement, saying they would not sign off on a text mentioning those issues.

With the Trump administration and other G-7 countries at an impasse, the energy ministers’ meeting ended without issuing the joint statement typical at the close of such meetings. Instead, “Carlo Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister and the chair of the summit, ... released a written summary of the meeting, which noted that the delegation heads of every country but the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal”

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Foundation; The Daily Mail; and Politico


CHEVRON BUCKS OIL MAJORS’ CLIMATE BUY-IN

In an April 10 podcast, Chevron’s CEO John Watson said he opposes carbon taxes or other regulations intended to limit oil and gas production and use. That position sets him apart from most other major oil company executives.

In a wide-ranging interview, Watson said the oil and gas industry shouldn’t be subject to a carbon tax because it is already helping the United States, and the world, lower greenhouse gas emissions. “The U.S. has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, and it’s been the result of our industry, my industry,” Watson said in the interview. “The miracle of hydraulic fracturing has allowed natural gas to displace coal in power generation. Why would you tax that product?”

Watson also said the science is not settled on whether humans are driving current climate change, telling the podcast host, “There’s no question there’s been some warming; you can look at the temperatures data and see that. The question and debate is around how much, and how much is caused by humans.”

Chevron’s climate realist position is not new. In 2016, Watson and Chevron’s board beat back a number of climate-related shareholder proposals, including proposals to require the company to set emission-reduction targets for itself and to require the company to report on how a global transition to a lower-carbon economy would affect its business. In disclosures filed March 21, 2017 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Chevron said it was once again opposing activist-driven stockholder proposals related to climate change and the environment.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Watson addressed the 2016 board meeting and challenged activists pushing the resolutions to state what they would be willing to sacrifice to live without oil.

“When people talk about a price on carbon, you’re talking about raising the price of energy – you’re talking about raising the price of everything you consume. The people arguing for a price on carbon should be prepared to say what they’re willing to live without,” said Watson, according the Chronicle.

SOURCES: Center on Global Energy Policy; Climate Wire (behind paywall); and San Francisco Chronicle


CONTRA NOAA, WARMING PAUSE ALIVE AND WELL

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The death of the warming hiatus has been greatly exaggerated.” Three recent studies contradict the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) controversial claim Earth’s temperature never ceased rising, during the otherwise widely acknowledged hiatus.

Each of the three studies cites copious research demonstrating the existence of the hiatus and, working from that evidence, shows how the pause has been experienced in specific regions and/or provides possible explanations for the pause in temperatures.

One study, in Earth and Space Science, shows as in China, the Tibetan Plateau experienced a significant decline in rising temperatures since the late 1990s, although the pause was delayed in areas above 13,000 feet until the early to mid-2000s.

A study in Climate Dynamics notes the pause in warming temperatures has been most pronounced over land masses in the Northern Hemisphere and posits it is likely due to natural climate variability driven by a decadal modulated oscillation that enhances warming in its upward phases and suppresses warming during downward phases. The oscillation has recently been in a down phase, accounting for the hiatus.

The third paper, in Geophysical Research Letters, reports the warming pause was most pronounced during the boreal winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

The important point here is not whether one set of researchers or another has correctly explained the measured pause in temperatures. The point is that the researchers agree there has been a pause in rising temperatures due to natural factors, despite ever-increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and in contrast to the pause-denying research that came out of NOAA.

SOURCES: Earth and Space Science; Climate Dynamics; and Geophysical Research Letters

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org